Jeremy R. Ferguson, President of SMART Transportation Division, issued the following statement on August 18, 2022:
On Tuesday, August 16, 2022, the Presidential Emergency Board 250 (PEB 250) submitted its recommendations to the White House for a settlement between the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) and the United Rail Unions Coalition. And while the recommendations of PEB 250 represent a vast improvement over the sponsors’ previous proposals, the recommendations do not go far enough to provide our members with the quality of life that they deserve and that both they and their families deserve.
Last month, the leaders of the dozen powerful United Rail Unions made impassioned and technically sound presentations to the PEB, expressing the need for improvements on quality of life issues, including addressing airlines’ draconian attendance policies and the need for more paid and scheduled flights time out. However, it seems that these are not considered as key issues. Obviously we wanted the PEB to make firm and bold changes to this status quo, but unfortunately they have shelved these important issues and brought them back to the realm of arbitration.
In addition, the PEB recommended a 22 per cent cumulative, 24 per cent top-up increase in compensation which, if accepted, would be the largest increase in railroad work in 47 years, but falls well short of our proposed benchmark to provide the most to our members of whom have worked tirelessly during the pandemic, bringing about the richest era in railroad history, with pay they deserve that will attract new talent. Our organizations presented real-time statistics showing how our remaining members are shouldering the extra workload after seeing valued employees being laid off or terminated as a direct impact of Precision Scheduled Railroading. In addition, it is not known whether the proposed wage and benefits package will help retain workers, let alone attract new ones in the industry. Only if we are accepted can we correctly answer this question over time, but based on our initial feedback, the prospects are not good.
SMART-TD leaders made our case before the PEB in July that our membership and fellow union membership deserves better, especially in recognition of what we have achieved before, during and after the pandemic. Our position has not changed, nor have we deviated from it. We will and will continue to fight for each and every one of our members and strive for the best possible outcome in everything we do.
Frankly, your union negotiators are a little disappointed that the PEB’s recommendations fall short of many of our demands – particularly because they split the difference between what Labor and the airlines wanted from a wage perspective, rather than favoring one over the other . While there is small consolation in knowing that these results are still better than those the airlines had previously proposed and what would likely have been achieved under the previous administration, it does little to narrow the divide among hedge fund managers , shareholders and railroad officials — those who have achieved record earnings, bonuses, share buybacks and lower operating quotas while sitting in their air-conditioned, sanitized corporate offices — while working people, their employees, our members, brothers and sisters are up 24 hours a day On-call are 7/365, working safely and loyally, transporting America’s cargo and citizens.
Ultimately, deciding whether to accept a tentative agreement that could be based on these recommendations could rest in the hands of the same workers whose passion and determination have carried the country through a pandemic and supply chain crisis.
While we share your frustration, our efforts to secure the best possible contract for our membership are undeterred. This is only the first step in the process, so please be patient while this situation evolves. We are currently collecting and evaluating information, including contributions from members, as we consider the PEB’s recommendations and our options. The remaining members of the coalition will be meeting with the NRLC in the very near future to determine whether a possible tentative agreement can be reached based on these recommendations.
In the meantime, let’s introduce ourselves Factual information strictly following PEB recommendations in an effort to educate all stakeholders on how this might look from a financial perspective when evaluating GWIs, back payments or the 15% co-payment related to your health and social plan. These presentations are made without the opinion of SMART-TD to strictly eliminate any misunderstanding or misunderstanding as to how these critical components should be reviewed at this time.
Jeremy R Ferguson
President, SMART Transportation Division